Finance panel reviews ballooning cost of Westport retiree benefits
The Westport Board of Finance wrapped up its third budget workshop of the week on Wednesday evening, focusing on whether to increase the annual contributions for pensions and other benefits for retired public employees.
At least two board members -- Chairwoman Helen Garten and Tom Lasersohn -- went on record calling for a higher annual required contribution, or ARC, to the Other Post-Employment Benefits account, covering medical costs.
"You just can't put this off because it will come back to bite you," Lasersohn said. "I think we have to start funding it."
First Selectman Gordon Joseloff told the board it must decide where that funding will come from.
"I don't know where we're going to inflict the pain," finance member Ken Wirfel said.
"The town and the first selectman have proposed a budget that will meet the ARC for the pension fund," he said. "There are some who would like to see even a greater contribution. At this time I am more concerned about the growth in our OPEB obligation and would like to see that addressed."
Selectman Charles Haberstroh, who until recently was a finance board member and attended Wednesday's session, agreed the focus should be on the OPEB.
"In the past few years we were supposed to put in $7.6 million more than we did," he said. "We need to play catch-up. We need to step up to the plate."
The town is proposing $750,000 for the OPEB for the coming year's budget. Garten, however, said a contribution of $2.4 million would be needed to fully fund the annual required contribution for the OPEB.